Research with Disabled Children: Tracing the Past, Present and Future

  • Sarah Richards
  • Jessica Clark


This chapter does not provide a toolkit or a ‘how to guide’ for conducting research with disabled children. Rather here the trajectory of disability research in relation to children and childhood is examined within the complex and dynamic social structures in which such research is situated. We trace the general direction of travel that has taken this research out of the institution and the domain of the medical profession into the field of social science, interpretivism and rights. In addition, wider methodological trends, the emerging interest of the social sciences in children’s lives and social agency along with the progression of disability rights and activism has transformed the landscape of contemporary research. We therefore traverse through the imposed passivity of disabled children to their agentic participation in research and highlight the ways that these ideas have been, and can continue to be, applied and interrogated. An exploration of the ways in which disability research is facilitated, conducted and published cannot be extricated from the social context in which ‘disability’ and ‘childhood’ sit. Therefore this chapter does not shy away from the ongoing debates which research in this field generate. We consider here not only changing methodologies and the positioning of participants in research but touch upon ongoing, unresolved social and political debates about who can research, what they can seek to know and what purpose such knowledge should serve. To that effect, disability studies is similar to other academic disciplines that critically evaluate the ways in which social research is conducted. This chapter therefore contributes to ongoing debates about the characteristics of research with disabled children and summatively does not seek simple and complete answers to what constitutes ‘good’ research. Rather readers should aim to recognise some of the dynamic complexities and opposing positions that influence social research in this field.


Disabled Children Disability Studies Disability Research Disability Community Modern Knowledge Production 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah Richards
    • 1
  • Jessica Clark
    • 1
  1. 1.University of SuffolkIpswichUK

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